Last night, "60 Minutes" ran a segment on Khan Academy and the influence it is having in improving mathematics education. Here is the letter I sent them today:


Brian L
03/12/2012 5:17pm

The segment definitely needed balance. Your letter provides that balance. Unfortunately, it won't get the audience the segment yesterday did.

Clare E.
03/13/2012 12:02pm

Your response was well done! My question is where are the Common Core Mathematics Practices evident in those students "doing" math?

03/13/2012 1:34pm

@Clare E Ugh…*face palm*…I totally meant to include this! Thanks for catching that.

04/13/2012 5:52am

So true - well done. Why we continue to teach math out of any intellectual context or problem-based sequencing is beyond me. And it's not for lack of alternatives, as I blogged recently: read Harold Fawcett's book The Nature of Proof from 1936 - an unbelievably cool inductive and critical-thinking focused yearlong course in geometry, with transfer tasks in a close reading of legislation! See also my work and those of others in the Quantitative Literacy movement of 15 years ago, and Schoenfeld's work of the last 30 years.

As you and readers may know, Exeter (the prep school) is now a completely problem-based math program 9-12. While I have some reservations about their specific methods, it is very cool to watch kids do nothing other than solve problems and draw generalizations from their work. At least Khan has people asking the Big Question: what's the best use of class time? But without a rich and detailed syllabus that shows a more coherent and intellectually vital way to learn math, there is little hope that your words will be heard, I fear.

04/13/2012 8:59am

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I look forward to reading your suggestions. I am very familiar with the Exeter math program and I would agree that it has many benefits. I would love to know more about your reservations with their approach.

You wrote, "without a rich and detailed syllabus that shows a more coherent and intellectually vital way to learn math, there is little hope that your words will be heard." I am working on this, but I fear that it's impact might be limited both from lack of exposure and from public misconception about mathematics.

09/14/2013 3:11pm

It's a good letter. What was disturbing about the praise is that it is KA's own public relations. You don't expect such lazy journalism from 60 minutes.

It is interesting how several people implied that it is basically a textbook, though in video/audio mode. That's my view.

I also think most of its success in math is the exercise bank. It creates a sense of progress. Feedback is a powerful enough process that even this lame version of it helps and engages students.

When I hear teachers say 'now I know what my students understand' - it makes me sad that so little assessment was going on before.



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